Android Overview Updated March 24, 2021

Android

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13,449 'Android' stories

May 2011 - August 2022

Android is Google’s mobile operating system, launched in September 2008, although its history technically began with the release of the Android alpha in November 2007. To this day, Android powers the majority of the world’s smartphones and comes in several different flavors across many phone makers.

What is Android?

Android Inc.

Android, before it was Android, was a company called Android Inc. That company was founded in Palo Alto, California, in 2003 by a crew of four: Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White. The company and its project was acquired by Google in 2005 for a sum of more than $50 million, although the exact number is unknown. The company’s founders joined Google as part of the deal.

In its infancy, Android was an operating system built not for touch screen smartphones like the iPhone, but rather BlackBerry-like devices with physical keyboards. It’s well documented that after Apple shocked the world with the iPhone, ahead of its nearest competition by at least a couple years, Google and Android Inc. had to go back to the drawing board to build something competitive.

Adoption by third-party makers

It didn’t take long after the launch of the iPhone for various manufacturers to enter the market with their alternatives — and Google’s Android immediately became the obvious platform of choice for just about everyone except Microsoft. HTC was the first manufacturer on board, and introduced the T-Mobile G1 running Android in September 2008. Soon after, HTC, Motorola, Samsung, and carriers like Sprint and T-Mobile jumped on board to form the Open Handset Alliance.

Android makers across the world

Iconic Android handsets

There have been thousands of Android phones released since Android’s inception, but some have been more important to the platform’s history than others. There was the original T-Mobile G1, as mentioned, but there was also the HTC One Google Play Edition, Moto G, Samsung Galaxy S4, and others. Some of the most iconic Android handsets include:

  • HTC G1
  • HTC Nexus One
  • Samsung Galaxy S, S2, S3, S4, and their successors
  • HTC Incredible S
  • Samsung Nexus S
  • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
  • Nokia 8
  • BlackBerry KeyOne
  • Google Pixel and its successors

In more modern times, there are several Android smartphones makers that popped up across various niches and in several international markets. Huawei is a dominant Android maker in China and many European markets, while Samsung is by far the most popular maker in the United States by far — effectively creating a duopoly with Apple. Today, there are dozens of major device makers contributing to the Android ecosystem.

Full list of Android OEMs

History of major Android versions

Android has seen countless software revisions over the course of its life, but in modern times the OS usually sees a major release on an annual cadence. In the earlier days, Google famously gave its major software releases dessert-themed codenames, but retired that practice in 2019 with the release of Android 10.

Version Name Release Devices
2.3 Gingerbread February 9, 2011 Nexus S
4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich October 19, 2011 Galaxy Nexus
4.1 Jelly Bean July 9, 2012 Nexus 7
4.2 Jelly Bean November 13, 2012 Nexus 4, 10
4.3 Jelly Bean July 24, 2013 Nexus 7 (2013)
4.4 KitKat October 31, 2013 Nexus 5
5.0 Lollipop November 3, 2014 Nexus 6, 9
5.1 Lollipop March 9, 2015 Android One
6.0 Marshmallow October 5, 2015 Nexus 5X, 6P
7.0 Nougat August 22, 2016 Nexus 5X, 6P
7.1 Nougat October 4, 2016 Pixel, Pixel XL
8.0 Oreo August 21, 2017 Pixel, Pixel XL
8.1 Oreo December 5, 2017 Pixel, Pixel XL
9 Pie August 6, 2018 Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL
10 10 September 3, 2019 Pixel 3, 3a
11 11 September 8, 2020 Pixel 4

List of major Android OS platforms

While Android proper is certainly the most widespread of Google’s Android operating systems, the company has also launched many offshoots of the main OS over the years. There’s Android Auto, Android Wear (now Wear OS), Android TV (now rebranded to Google TV), as well as versions of Android built for tablets and Android Things (now defunct).

Android Stories August 12

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Last August, Google rolled out a handful of Material You flourishes to Gboard for Android, and a few more are now coming to the keyboard, including the shortcuts bar.

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On Tuesday, Google kicked off its “Get The Message” RCS campaign online and will be continuing with digital billboards in NYC going after Apple.

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GameSir X3 controller with RGB fan
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For the utmost hard-core Android gamer, the GameSir X3 may be the ultimate mobile controller, carrying almost every feature you could ask for – including in-depth customization and an RGB fan – but that excess comes at a cost.

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Android Stories August 9

Google Play Store on an Android phone
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Google Play makes use of a strike system for apps, with multiple resulting in termination and removal. The company is now piloting a training course (and assessment) that gives Android developers the opportunity to have the “strike count against their account’s standing waived.”

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1password 8
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Password managers are the one app that just about everyone should be using in this day and age, and 1Password has long been one of our favorites. Today, 1Password 8 is officially available to everyone on Android and iOS with a brand new design, new features, and more. But you won’t get it automatically…

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Google Apple RCS campaign
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For the past year, Google has been increasingly calling out Apple for not adopting RCS (Rich Communication Services) on the iPhone. Meant to replace SMS/MMS, it has a number of technical advancements that would improve the messaging experience between Android and iOS users. Google is now launching a “Get The Message” pressure campaign in hopes that Apple will change its mind on RCS.

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Android Stories August 5

Ubisoft is bringing ‘Rainbow Six Mobile’ to Android and iOS, pre-registration open now [U]

Rainbow Six Siege has been one of the most popular shooter games on PC and consoles for years, and just a few months after its sequel’s launch, a new title in the series is on its way. Today, Ubisoft has revealed that “Rainbow Six Mobile” is coming to Android and iOS.

Android Stories August 4

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In response to user criticism, Google Play is bringing back the list of app permissions, but another curious Store change sees version numbers removed from the App info section.

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Android Stories August 3

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At I/O 2022, Google announced that it will update over 20 of its first-party apps for large screens in a show of its commitment to the form factor. This will undoubtedly improve the experience for existing owners and is meant to encourage other developers to do the same. Here’s every Google app on Android that has a tablet update and what’s still to come.

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Android Stories August 2

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Google’s most recent design changes to Gboard introduced various Material You flourishes. A small update recently tweaked Gboard themes so they now extend to the navigation bar on more Android phones.

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Android Stories July 29

google pixel 6a homescreen
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Google has just issued new policy updates for Play Store developers, and the new rules take aim directly at misinformation, impersonation, and annoying game ads… among other things.

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Android Stories July 27

google pixel 6a
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In recent years, Android has increasingly offered contextual suggestions throughout the OS. Pixel phones have recently picked up the ability to suggest what chats screenshots should be sent to. 

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The July 2022 updates to the Google Play System are set to bring the full “Google Wallet” rebrand, along with some new forms of “multi-device experiences.”

Update: The latest batch of July updates include a Game Dashboard for Android 13, a “Matter Developer Preview,” and more.

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You should recycle your old Android phone: How and where to do it

It seems like it doesn’t need to be said, but you should never just toss your old Android phone in the trash. Whether or not you can get money out of it, it’s always a good thing for an old phone to be recycled and repurposed into a new one down the road. This guide will give you some options to recycle your old Android phone – and who knows? You may even make some cash from it.

Android Stories July 25

COVID-19 vaccine cards on Google Wallet: How to find and add them

Google Wallet is Google’s latest update to the company’s touchless payments management system. In addition to bank cards, Google Wallet is also capable of holding your other passes, including digital COVID-19 vaccine records. This guide will dig into finding out if you can access an officially supported one and how to add it to your Google Wallet app.

Android Stories July 22

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Besides revealing work on support for Ring doorbell notifications, the latest version of Android System Intelligence gives you control over data used for At a Glance and other smart features.

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Android Stories July 21

Transferring WhatsApp from Android to iOS: How to move all of your chat data

WhatsApp has been beta testing the ability to move chat history and data from Android to iOS via the Move to iOS app for a while now. Yesterday, WhatsApp announced the full release of that feature to users wanting to transfer their WhatsApp data to a new or reset iPhone from an Android device. This guide will take you through the steps to transfer your WhatsApp data from Android to iOS on your iPhone so you can do it yourself.

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With the addition of the developer-generated Data safety section this year, Google Play removed the old list of app permissions. The Play Store is now reversing this decision in response to user feedback and will have both coexist.

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Google Wallet: How to install it on your Android device

Google Wallet is finally here with some streamlined changes that have felt a little overdue. This guide will take you through how to install it from scratch or update your existing Google Pay app to Google Wallet.

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Nvidia has just announced that GeForce Now is picking up support for 120fps gameplay on all Android smartphones, after previously limiting the functionality to only a few select models.

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Android Stories July 19

Android now supports DNS-over-HTTP/3 with Google Play system update

Android 9.0 Pie in 2018 introduced DNS-over-TLS (DoT) and the mobile OS now supports DNS-over-HTTP/3 (DoH) thanks to a Google Play system update (Mainline).

Lawnchair launcher 11
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The popular third-party Android launcher, Lawnchair, has lost part of its development team due to concerns about the app’s use of code taken from Google’s own Pixel Launcher.

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Android Stories July 17

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As of late – especially with Samsung – Google has been more prominently advertising the Android ecosystem and what it can do. The latest example is an Amazon store/brand page (in the US) called “Devices with Google.”

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Android Stories July 15

The new (2021) logo for Fuchsia, displayed on a Nest Hub
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A big chunk of Fuchsia-related code has been removed from the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) this week, but Google’s two operating systems are still set to have an intertwining relationship.

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Nothing OS
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Very few Android phones stay close to AOSP these days, and while the Nothing Phone (1) won’t come to the US, it’s an interesting first entry for Carl Pei’s startup. Sold as clean and lightweight, just what is different in Nothing OS? Here’s everything you need to know.

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Android Stories July 14

google play store data safety
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Since permissions were added to Android as a platform, the Google Play Store has shown a list of all potential permissions that an app could use before installing that app. Now, the Play Store has removed that list.

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Android Stories July 13

emoji kitchen
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Emoji have become a part of our modern language, and it’s a big deal when new options are added to the catalog. With Unicode 15, the next batch of emoji may finally bring a proper “high-five” emoji, alongside other options.

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Android Stories July 12

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You might be aware of Settings Services since a recent update added more sizing options for the Pixel Battery widget, and a Google support article now fully explains what the app is responsible for.

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Some years on since its inception, Carl Pei’s Nothing has released its very first smartphone: The Android-powered Nothing Phone (1).

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Android Stories July 11

How to stop automatic app updates on Android

By default, automatic app updates on Android are turned on. This means that during certain times, the apps you get from the Google Play Store will be updated on their own, with no manual activation. But what if you want to turn that off? Here’s how to stop automatic app updates on Android.

Android Stories July 8

google pixel tablet teaser
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Google has updated Android’s Data Restore Tool with a handful of new animations in preparation for the upcoming Pixel tablet.

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Android Stories July 7

Windows 11 updating its Android subsystem with VPN support, better video playback

Windows 11 brought with it a way to easily run Android apps directly on PCs, and for July 2022, Microsoft is updating that system with a few key tweaks.

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Google said today that its first-party apps offer over 30 widgets on Android. An upcoming widget from Google Maps will provide the latest on nearby traffic at your current location.

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WhatsApp icon in a phone's app drawer
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After offering the ability to transfer chats from iOS to Android for some time, WhatsApp is now beginning to roll out support for transfers from Android to iOS.

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Android Stories July 6

How to quickly screen record on your Google Pixel

Forget taking screenshots! Capturing screen recordings on Google Pixel is the way to go. That’s mostly a joke, although screen recordings do come in handy more often than you think. Here’s how to create them.

Why don’t Samsung devices have seamless updates?

As of late, Samsung has been on the ball in terms of releasing new OS and security updates for its newer and older Galaxy devices. While that may be the case, there is one downside to updating a Samsung Galaxy phone: no seamless updates. What does this mean, and why doesn’t the OEM make use of this method? Let’s take a closer look.

Ubisoft is bringing ‘The Division’ to Android and iOS with free-to-play ‘Resurgence’ coming soon

Mobile games continue to improve in quality every year, and now Ubisoft is bringing its popular shooter series The Division to Android and iOS with the upcoming title “Resurgence.”

android lockscreen pixel 5
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Advertising is a necessary evil in today’s internet landscape, but sometimes it can be too invasive. If the Google-backed company “Glance” gets its way, you’ll probably start seeing more Android phones with lockscreen ads in the United States.

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Android Stories July 5

How to change your password autofill settings on Android

With so many password management services out there, it can be tempting to make one of them your default autofill provider on your Android device. Unfortunately, our experience has resulted in bug after bug when using third-party password services. This guide will help you change your Pixel or Samsung device password autofill settings and adjust them to your liking.

Android Stories July 1

Google Play system updates for June bring Thread/Matter network sharing and more [U]

June’s Google Play system updates for Android bring new support for Thread/Matter devices, along with a handful of additional security fixes for our phones and tablets.

Android Stories June 30

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Now Playing is one of the Pixel’s best features. It uses the same technology as “Hey Google” hotword detection to recognize music around you without you needing to do anything. Since the Pixel 2, this feature has been Pixel exclusive, and no other phone manufacturer has released any competitor or alternative. But, developer Kieron Quinn managed to port Now Playing to any un-rooted Android 12+ phone using his app Ambient Music Mod.

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In recent weeks, the Google Password Manager has seen a number of changes, and the company is making them (along with a few others) official today.

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Android Stories June 29

Switch to Android app installed on an iPhone
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Google is preparing to launch a brand new way to move from Apple’s iPhones to an Android device. Here’s your first look at Google’s “Switch to Android” app running on an iPhone.

Update: Google’s Switch to Android app now supports all Android 12 devices, not just Pixels.

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Google Android iPhone switch
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Back in April, Google launched a “Switch to Android” iOS app that first worked with Pixel phones. Availability is now expanding to all Android 12 phones as Google makes its case for why iPhone users should switch.

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Android Stories June 28

Google Pixel Car crash detection on Android
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Google seems to be preparing for car crash detection and other Pixel-exclusive Personal Safety features available on other Android phones.

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How to clear some space and empty trash on your Google Pixel

While modern-day smartphones are fantastic for keeping large files in the cloud, you will inevitably find yourself downloading at least some locally onto your device. Over time, that download folder can get larger and larger until your Android device almost can’t take anymore. This guide will take you through the “Files” app and help you empty some of that trash on your Pixel.

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Ray-tracing is the hot new thing in the gaming world, being a key part of modern PC GPUs and the latest generation of consoles. Now, Arm is making a push to make ray-tracing more popular on Android smartphones, with the new “Immortalis” GPU.

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Android Stories June 27

How to block a number on Android
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We’ve all been there. Whether it’s spam, robocalls, or a repeated wrong number, there are plenty of reasons you might want to block a phone number. On Android that process is very straightforward and can be done over and over for tons of different numbers. Here’s how to block a number on your Android device.

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